Plan A for the weekend, especially Sunday, was the family’s typical routine … but then my daughter woke up with a splitting headache, nausea, and some other ugly symptoms. She was better by late afternoon, but Plan A went away in favor of a much quieter, but evidently much needed Plan B. Or C or D.
And then, this morning, I woke up with a headache and a sour stomach. There went Plan A for today. Several hours later, I can move (slowly), eat (but not very much), sit up (for a while), and think (to some degree). I believe we’re on Plan G … or maybe Plan H … by now, and it’s not yet noon.
In the midst of an illness, most of us just want it to go away. There’s not much time, energy, or desire to think about the causes of the illness or about prevention of such things in the future. To use the language I borrowed in Friday’s post, Activity A (getting better or stopping the suffering) takes priority, to the almost total exclusion of Activity B (which I suppose would be wellness-promoting things like diet, exercise, and stress management) or Activity C (which might be those things we do – especially in community – to get better at diet, exercise, stress management, and the other things that promote health in the long term). But when you begin to feel better, it’s natural to start thinking about Activity B and even, perhaps, Activity C. That’s what I started to do by mid-morning today … and it’s probably what led me to start writing this post.
In this powerful piece, which “just happened” to appear in my Google+ stream as I was starting to feel better, James Altucher sees sickness and general misery as signs of an inner “revolt,” signs that one or more of our inner voices has “felt disenfranchised” or unheard. That makes sense. Viruses and bacteria are involved, too, in the case of physical illness … but those viruses and bacteria are around us all the time. Most of the time, most of us stay mostly healthy … because most of the time, most of us are mostly in alignment rather than revolt. In my daughter’s case, I know she was torn between much-needed rest (she has a very busy week coming up and had been working hard to prepare for it) and volunteering in the church nursery, where she gets to see and interact with some of her favorite small persons and use some of her most important gifts. Rest won out. I can also see the different voices conflicting within me: one that needed rest, one that wanted to look productive, one that says “But factory-schools need you and you still make a difference, sometimes, for a few people,” another that’s feeling ever more disrespected, disempowered, unappreciated.
No wonder we weren’t feeling well!
In between the end of my daughter’s sickness and the start of mine, I did spend an hour or two at the local Barnes & Noble on Sunday evening. I needed a break, and there was a coupon (which I ended up not using) and a gift card (still unspent). On the way in, I ran into my former student C, and then sisters J and D – who had moved away mid-year but were back to visit friends – excitedly greeted me. C, it seems, has “dropped out of school for a while” – which surprised me not at all. He had coasted through high school, relying on his natural talent and charm, then decided to attend a Very Prestigious University out of state and major in engineering. That’s his passion and calling, I think, and so did he before he graduated … but I don’t think he’s ready to follow it just yet. Factory-schooling sorted and selected C as a “good kid” and a “bright kid,” a “good student” who’s “academically gifted,” but it – we – never prepared him for the rigors of a Very Prestigious University’s engineering program. Ms. X yelled and labeled, Mr. Y begged and cajoled, I tried to create structures where actions had consequences. C, secure in his well-established labels of good, bright, and gifted, shrugged it all off. J and D, with labels like sweet and hard-working and maybe not as smart as they think they are (what a horrible label that last one is!), had a different set of struggles … but unlike C, they learned some general skills for coping with difficult stuff along the way. All three, I think, were ill-served by a factory-school structure, even in its small and caring version, that still primarily aims to sort, select, and label rather than to unlock potential and encourage growth.
So I was glad to see all three of them – and they were glad to see me – but seeing them also made me sad. Regardless of the good I could do for them individually, and for all the value they derived from their time in the Latin Family, factory paradigms and factory labels still have such power … not just over them, but over everyone who participates in factory-structures and factory-ways. I’m torn between the good I know how to do within factory-structures and the greater good I can learn to do beyond the factory walls. That’s probably why I was sick this morning, and why this post took so much longer than usual to write.
How do you know when it’s time to walk out and walk on? And how do you build a joyful community for the journey?